So the fixtures for the new season are out and that time to look out for certain fixtures.
No matter how much one half try to deny it, Celtic and Rangers fans will have pencilled in their diaries when the Old Firm matches take place, Hamilton fans will have eyed up when they face Lanarkshire rivals Motherwell and, in the Championship, promotion rivals Hibs and Dundee United will have had a lookout to see when the crunch battles between the favourites to return to the top flight take place.
For my club Aberdeen, most will have looked out for the first clash with Rangers in four years takes place above others, more so these days to taunt them with chants of “you’re not Rangers any more.”
Honestly, I couldn’t tell when the first Aberdeen v Rangers game is. Not because I view them as “not the same club” (honestly can’t be bothered with the whole “Sevco” nonsense) but there are 11 teams in the League and I try not to look much further than three or four games ahead.
One date I did look out for was 11 March 2017, which is my stag weekend and I was intrigued as to who we’d be playing. By freak coincidence, the Dons are at home to Motherwell, the boyhood team of my best man!
I really don’t know how to take that. On one hand, the thought of victory would be really sweet and give me, and a few fellow Dandies going that weekend, gloating rights over the best man and a couple more Well fans, meaning the majority of their support can’t go to Pittodrie (joking of course, there are 20 Motherwell fans in total). However, defeat and I fear a forfeit or two more will be heading my way that I won’t be allowed to get out of.
Also that same weekend is the Third Old Firm Derby of the season. With some of the group supporting either team, I get the feeling one of the activities of the weekend will be spent in an Aviemore pub (the Stag venue) watching Celtic and Rangers whilst recovering from the night before. All in all, it adds more banter to a fun weekend in prospect.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who looks forward to games against sides outside their rivals or the bigger clubs in Scotland. Having friends of teams like St Johnstone, Partick Thistle and Kilmarnock means more banter throughout the season, therefore makes it a more interesting 12 months.
Of course, there’s not much better things in football (other than winning trophies of course) than getting one over your rivals, which is why fans look out for those fixtures first, but it’s important to remain focuses on the bigger picture.
Which is why I try not to look further than who we have more than a month ahead. I know start our season with games against St Johnstone, Hearts, Partick Thistle and Celtic but, apart from the aforementioned Motherwell game and the Perth side again on my wedding day (hopefully that gets moved to a day either side), I couldn’t tell you without checking who we play after that.
Aberdeen have a tough season ahead with the return of Rangers, the arrival of Brendan Rogers at Celtic and Hearts looking to strengthen, meaning it’s going to be difficult for us to finish second or better this term.
The first four matches will be a test for the Dons, especially given the fact that, for the third season running, they begin their European campaign at the first qualifying stage and fatigue could become an issue although last season their Europa League adventure gave them an advantage with match practice under their belt going into the domestic campaign.
St Johnstone have been somewhat of a bogey team in last couple of seasons for Aberdeen and you don’t need to be a football expert to know that Hearts and Celtic will be tough opponents.
Even Partick won’t be easy judging by the three matches between the two last season, including a 0-0 draw at Pittodrie that cost the Dons the chance to go top and help scupper any title hopes we had.
Get a decent return of 7-12 points from those four games and it can set the Dons up for another good campaign.
There’s no point looking too far afield, otherwise McInnes’s men will lose their concentration on the immediate task at hand and face an even bigger battle to finish second again.
As for the rest of the fixtures, there have been complaints from Partick Thistle and Motherwell over the fact they only entertain the Old Firm twice before the split whereas Dundee and Inverness Caledonian Thistle get four visits from the Glasgow duo, a move that, reportedly, costs either side around £120,000 in lost revenue.
It just shows that the inept SPFL board, lead by chief clowns Neil Doncaster and Ralph Topping, are creative enough to come up with new ways to annoy clubs and their supporters.
Having a full fixture card on Christmas Eve is also a questionable move that will likely have a bearing on attendances. For example, Inverness and Partick, who don’t bring great away crowds at the best of times, have been asked to make long journeys to Ibrox and Dingwall respectively.
It’s no secret that Scottish Football could do with a cash boost and the SPFL should be thinking of ideas that will bring money into the game, not hinder that possibility.
Whatever people think of the fixtures and whatever gripes they may have, the release of the new season fixture list is always an exciting time and the countdown to the 2016/17 campaign starts now.
For me, it doesn’t matter who we play and when, we’ve got to play the 11 Premiership teams at some point, as long as we get three points when we play them.
Having said that, it’s still intriguing to look ahead to certain games and I, like most, can’t wait for the new season to kick off and see what my team can come up with over the following ten months.